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Duck Legs & Breasts with Blackberry and Fig Sauce

Yield: 4 servings

  • 4 duck legs, Moscovy or Pekin
  • 1/2 medium onion, coarsely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and left whole
  • sprig fresh thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 double duck breast (2 if small)
  • 2 Tbs. honey
  • 1/4 cup Port wine
  • 2 Tbs. raspberry (or other fruity) vinegar, plus more to taste
  • 1 basket (4.4 oz.) blackberries
  • 1 basket of Mission figs
  • the duck leg stock (from this recipe)
  • 1 tsp. dark soy
  • salt & pepper
  • 4 big handfuls baby greens
  • extra vinegar (and olive oil)

Legs: Remove loose fat (not skin!). Prick the fatty parts of the skin all over with a fork. Season with salt and pepper. Strew onion pieces in a pan just large enough to hold the legs in a single layer, and add garlic cloves, thyme and bay leaf. Arrange pieces over the vegetables and herbs. Add the water, cover the pan and bring to a simmer. Cook at a simmer for 30-45 minutes, until the duck is just tender when pierced with a fork.

Remove duck legs to a plate. Remove the bay leaf and thyme stems, then strain the broth into a narrow container and let settle. Skim the fat. Either discard, or save a little for the salad dressing. Set broth aside for the sauce.

Breasts: Score the fat in a diamond pattern. Salt and pepper, and set aside at room temperature for 1 hour before cooking.

Make the Sauce: After legs are braised and broth skimmed, rapidly cook the honey, wine and vinegar in a small pan until reduced by half. Add half the duck broth and soy sauce; cook at a simmer until it becomes glossy and a bit thickened. Set aside a few tablespoons to baste the legs & breast (which can be roasting while you finish the sauce), then add the rest of the stock half the berries and 4-5 chopped-up figs, and continue to simmer until glossy. Add the remaining berries to warm for the last 2-3 minutes. Taste for seasoning and adjust salt and pepper; you may also need a bit more vinegar or Port for balance.

Forty-five minutes before serving, preheat the oven to 375°F. Arrange duck legs in a single layer in pan and roast, skin-side up until nicely browned. Halve remaining figs, and place flesh-side up among the legs. Baste duck and figs with the sauce after 10 minutes, to glaze. Roasting should take about 15-20 minutes altogether. Twenty minutes before serving, heat a cast-iron pan over high heat on the stove. Place breasts in pan, skin side down, and lower heat to medium. You want the skin to brown, the fat to render, but not burn. Cook for 5 minutes, then place in the oven with the legs to finish cooking to medium-rare, about 10 minutes more. Remove and let rest 5 minutes before slicing, on the diagonal.

Serve a leg plus a few fanned slices breast, with the sauce, a few berries and halved figs over and around the duck. This dish goes well with forbidden rice, spicy cous-cous, wild rice, polenta, rice pilaf, or even crispy roasted potatoes. Garnish with the salad greens tossed with either a little duck fat or olive oil, and a little of the vinegar, lightly seasoned.